HOME FOR Ron Reagan, the president-elect's son, is a two-room fourth-floor walkup he shares with his bride Doria Palmieri in New York's Greenwich Village. Here's his idea of a perfect evening.
"Nobody calls on the phone, we've got enough wood for the fire, the cats didn't pee on anything, Doria makes a little pesto, pasta, some veal, maybe there's a good 'M*a*s*h' on re-runs."
"And what would really clinch it," Doris adds, "is if we didn't have to go to work the next day. We're big stay-at-homes."
Their Greenwich Village apartment has high ceilings and an airy ambiance. It is on 10th Street, roughly 100 yards from Fifth Avenue in one of the most desirable locations in New York City. A woodpile sits next to the marble frame of the fireplace. The kitchen is in what was apparently once a closet, with sink, stove and half-size refrigerator jammed in. Ron Reagan has built a pulley system of hanging baskets for added storage space.
It's not exactly "Barefoot in the Park," but the Reagans have learned to get by on his salary as a dancer with the Joffrey II Ballet and hers as an editorial assistant, with a little help from the president-elect. They don't regard themselves as sacrificing anything. A night on the town? Says Doris: "It's just a big chore. Dressing up in clothes you don't want to wear and spending money you don't have on things you don't need."
At their apartment, Doris and Ron munched on various cheeses and crackers, with Doria apologizing that the glassware doesn't match. c
Their basic expenses are approximately $800 a month for food and rent. The financial aid the couple is getting from Reagan's parents is typical and necessary for young, underpaid dancers who wish to live on their own in Manhattan.
Together, Ron and Doria are a blend of the pragmatic and the romantic. They listen intently to one another, never interrupting.
The dancer, 22, is a beer connoisseur, and this night is drinking a Chinese beer, Tsingtao, from the bottle. His wife gets him a second bottle when she sees the first bottle is empty.
Like the other Reagan children, Ron is protective of his independence while remaining on good, if not terribly close, terms with his parents. He dropped out of Yale to pursue his interest in dance, lived with Doria for a year, and when they decided to wed in November, no parents were present.
The elder Reagan used to recount stories of his college football playing days, when he wieghed 175 pounds and played defensive tackle up against a 300-pound opponent.
"He'd use that as an example of, if you're tough enough and strong enough and quick enough and everything, you can do anything," recalls the younger Reagan.
Today the former football player is the president-elect. And his son, Ronald Prescott Reagan, who learned his father's lesson, is a dancer.
He volunteers few opinions, but when queried, will provide them on almost any topic. He refers to his parents not by their first names but as "Mom and Dad" and says he not only loves them, but respects them. In particular, he considers his father a great example of the best of what the American way can produce.
Ron says his widely quoted comments denigrating President Carter are true, and he is aware that the quotes had a significant impact on the press. "They seemed to like the bit about Carter . . . and I don't mind that at all. They can run with that as much as they want. I almost released the statement" blasting Carter while the campaign was on, Ron said. "I have no affection or respect for Mr. Carter. I think he's a real rat."
While Ron rehearses eight hours a day, hauling budding ballerinas across the huge studio, Doria, 29, works at the mostly clerical job of "editorial assistant."
They have been hounded by the media, with one photographer sleeping in a station wagon outside the Reagans' apartment building for several days waiting to get snapshots of the couple, and Doria declines to be specific about where her parents currently live or where she has been working. She says she does not want her family or employer to suffer a deluge of reporters.
Doris explains, in part, what it is about Ron that appeals to her: "He allows me to be very comfortable. I don't have to modify my feelings, my behavior, my emotions. Ron's the only man who ever made me feel that way. He's always taking care of me in a way I can't explain because it's so personal. Just sitting in a room with him, I feel a lot calmer and happier.
"We have a respect for one another -- with a lot of couples I know, that respect is just not around. He's always cared about me and protected me and appreciates my intelligence. We're like fans of each other."
They talk about when they first met four years ago at the Stanley Holden Ballet School in Los Angeles. Ron was a scholarship student working at a reception desk when Doria, who was taking occasional classes, walked in. Ron remembers being so taken with Doria, "love at first sight," he says, that he became confused and asked her to sign in right after she had already signed in. That annoyed Doria, who says she developed an instant dislike for Ron, but her interest grew as she watched him in class. He was a more able dancer than the others, she says, and soon they were talking about dancing and then dating. The rest is history, she laughs.
The difference in their ages seems to be more of an issue outside of New York. In Mahattan, and particularly in the dance community, there are few-raised eyebrows about it. Many dancers long ago dropped age as a consideration for romantic relationships.
Ron: "Gee, you weren't fortunate enough to be born in the same year? Sorry, I couldn't help it," he laughs.
Doria: "[It's a] junior-high mentality where you have to like the boy who is older than you."
Occasionally Ron has been asked if he is a homosexual -- a question stemming from the sterotypical image of male ballet dancers. Ron says, "I find that amusing more than anything else. I think it's kind of irrelevant."
During the presidential campaign, Ron suggested that such questions were merely an attempt to find something politically embarrassing about his father. "Well, of course, that was the idea behind all those questions, and I realize that. And for that reason it was kind of annoying, you know. You wanted to tell those people to just go dry up."
He didn't do that. "Not in quite those words," he says. "But I let 'em know that I thought it was pretty stupid to pursue that line of questioning."
The couple has learned to cope with the limelight of the Reagan presidency when they must, but, says Ron: "We rarely answer the phone anymore. You come home at night, you're tired; you get a day off, and what do you have to do? You have to sit on the phone all day and talk to people."
Doria considers herself a good cook and specializes in Italian dishes. Ron agrees. But she is having a harder time taking the media knocks than is her husband. She is offended at an apparent suggestion recently by the host of a TV talk show that might be interpreted as insulting her cooking.
She is also annoyed at New York magazine's description of the building the Reagans live in as "grungy" and of their financial status as "broke."
The two of them seem to work their anger out with wry humor. Ron suggests describing their hearth as "a grungy fireplace." Doria says the marble is "grungy marble," then changes her mind and says it's "starving marble."
The hall closet is jammed so full of clothing that when Doria says many of her goods are still in California, and she wants to retrieve them, one wonders where they'll be stored.
A worn couch, a rag rug, a butcher block table, two apparently new wooden chairs, a trunk and stereo components comprise most of the furniture in the room, leaving a lot of empty space.
Something is genuinely wrong with the apartment, and after two hours, it suddenly becomes apparent. There appears to be no dirt whatever. Doria may be cleaning the place too often.
The apartment walls are painted what seems to be purple -- the Reagans say it's gray -- with baseboards and moldings in glossy Chinese red. The colors are loud and the red looks slopped on in a pass-the-beer-boys paint job.
It turns out that some of the newlyweds' friends helped paint the place. The Reagans say they will repaint soon.
The ceilings are blue-gray -- water damage from above is causing the paint to peel in the living-dining room, the floors are parquet, a window shade is bamboo, and a Chinese paper lantern and wooden model dinosaur hang from the ceiling.
Ron: "It's about as furnished as we want it. It's spartan."
Doria: "We plan to get rid of a lot of it."
The bedroom is distinguishable because there's a bed in it. The cats -- Duke and Sweeny -- are unobtrusive, but during the evening, one smacks the other in the head with a well-aimed paw.
Doria, who attended California State College at Northridge, majored in philosophy but didn't graduate, she explained, because she had not taken a required physical education class. "I worked real hard and got real sick my last year and took about six months off. The money runs out and you have to start working and it's a lot harder to go back.
"At the time, I thought I wanted to teach or go to law school but since then I canceled out teaching and didn't like too much of what I saw the legal profession really was.
'Eventually, I'm thinking of going back to school and getting a degree in special education. I'd like to teach emotionally disturbed children."
In the meantime, it's been a succession of entry-level jobs for her. "Nobody ever guaranteed me a job" for going to college, Dorian says.
"My father still believes if I just go back to school for a little longer," she laughs, "and take more philosophy . . . my parents had great scholastic expectations for me and we're still all a little bewildered that it led nowhere."
She again laughs at her vocational situation, saying "My father is still shaking his head -- 'Oh, God, you can't get a job.'"
At the studio, during a rehearsal lunch break, Ron is sitting on the floor, sprawled out. Doria has dragged herself out of bed from a bout with the flu to visit Ron. The other dancers -- nearly a dozen of them -- are also on the floor, huddled together, intently staring at a television set playing a videotape of one of their performances.
One male dancer is lunching on a bag of M&Ms and a quart of Coca-Cola. But none of that for Ron. His meal, brought in by Doria, consists of a cup of flavored yogurt and a quart container of orange juice. Lunch for dancers usually is light, since they will return to rehearsal, and as the old adage goes, "You throw up, you clean up."
Doria is wearing one of her typical outfits; a yellow pullover, blue jeans and knee-lace boots with soft, low heels. But for Ron's Manhattan debut two days earlier, she dressed like a clothes horse, with a fashionable black outfit.
Ron prefers sweatshirts to tie and jacket. He has a natural charm and fast-draw smile, and politeness so exceptional that cynics who knew him as a youth say they thought it was an act. The politeness and the "Hi mom, hi dad!" demeanor, however, has been his trademark for so long that even skeptics no longer question his sincerity.
Ron, speaking of his brother and sister, says: "I think we have a pretty strong family identity. We're all very aware of each other. I'm pretty close to REAGANS, From K6 Patti and Mike is pretty close to Maureen." Michael and Maureen Reagan are the children of the president-elect's first marriage to actress Jane Wyman.
Faced with the fact that the Joffery II is beginning a 17-week cross-country tour next month, Doria decided not to be a ballet widow. She will go on tour with her husband.
"I'm stubborn," she explains. "I go everywhere I possibly can and I act in what is probably a very impractical manner in dealing with that." She has been saving money because she will have to quit her job to join the tour.
"It's like when Ron lived here and I still lived in L.A., I used to come here at the time and used to call a million times a week. And when he performs I go to every performance."
She had decided to follow Ron on the tour even before she was invited by Sally Brayley Bliss, director of Joffrey II. "I wasn't going to ask them," Doria says. "I intended to go along on a parallel [route]. I would never want to impose on anyone or interfere with Ron's job.
Then she laughs, "On the other hand, I don't want to stay home either. Luckily, it's worked out."
When the Reagan began to raise a family of their own, Ron anticipates performing away from home could be "a problem. But there's also the artistic question of wanting to go different places . . . sampling all the different companies. I just hope she can come as much as she can. I kind of like traveling.
"Even if we had a child, I would continue dancing even if it meant touring, and just hope for the best and try to come back and be there as much as possible."
Doria says, with a hearty chuckle, "It's my philosophy that children pack well and barely wrinkle."
"Fold 'em up!" says Ron.
Earning $270 during each performance week, and $90 during each rehearsal week, Ron is interested in the problem of dancers' salaries. He says, "It angers me intellectually more than in any practical kind of way. I mean I just think that when people work hard . . . it's worth more than the little bit that's paid [dancers]. Garbagemen make more, stagehands make more, everybody makes more -- well, why? They're not working as hard, they're not doing somethng that's as creative. There's just an obvious problem there -- something is wrong."
But Ron, in fact, is not chasing the buck. He has turned down offers to appear on Broadway, on a PBS dance special, on TV talk shows, and to do a credit card commercial. He has no manager.
What he is still chasing is more skill, work and stage experience and he says he intends to stay with the Joffery II indefinitely. Earlier, he had said that some day he might like either to go to Europe and join a ballet company there or to perhaps join the American Ballet Theatre in order to dance the 19th-century classics that are in neither the Joffrey II nor the parent Joffrey company's repertoire.
An informal request for advice was relayed for Ron by friends to an industry executive who is a powerbroker with influence at ABT. So ABT most likely knows of Ron's hunger for the classics.
But the dancer offers a very realistic assessment of his potential to become a superstar: "When you start, everybody is, I'm sure, convinced that they can be the next Baryshnikov. Then gradually, you sort of realize what's involved and you realize that, well, you started too late for that sort of thing and you're not going to be the best dancer that ever lived.
"You still try, still work for it, still work for perfection. But you realize that your place will be on a slightly lower rung, probably."
Is he willing to accept a lower rung? "Well, you don't accept that so much as it's in the back of your mind. And it's not the most important thing . . . it's almost a function of timing -- like anything else. [Some] get the breaks; they happen to defect from Russia and that makes them a superstar more than anything else."
And then, as Ron points out, "You just have to want it. Some people don't want it [badly enough]." Ron, who started his training exceptionally late -- at the age of 18 -- observes, "You see it with kids who started when they were nine years old, with perfect turnout and everything's perfect. But they don't want it.
"I used to hear then at ABT [in Los Angeles where he performed as non-dancing extra] talking in the dressing rooms. We'd just stand there and watch in awe as they put on their makeup and went out on stage -- but they'd be talking about how they really didn't care -- they'd made soloist with ABT and then quit because there wasn't enough money and they'd go into something else.
"They didn't feel for their art. They just did it because they fell into it. I mean, everybody agrees that what makes an artist is the soul -- what's inside."
The two Reagans are independent of many of the values of their parents yet interested in accommodation.
When they married last month in a civil ceremony in Manhattan, they were dressed in the knockabout informal garb they favor, such as sweatshirts and cowboy boots.
But on Jan. 20, for the Reagan inauguration, the dancer will appear in a gray flannel suit and Doria will wear a matching gray flannel lady's suit.
For the ball that night, Ron has bought a Calvin Klein tuxedo and a wing collar shirt. From Perry Ellis, who Doria says is her favorite designer, she has bought floor-length, full-silk taffeta culottes and a "little black velvet jacket that goes over a black angora sweater."
Asked about their religious beliefs, Doria says, "I'm moral and I have spiritual values, but I am not attached to any organized religion. I'm an ex-Catholic. I haven't been to church in an awfully long time . . . I like the concept of God and I like the concept of spirituality. I just don't like a lot of churches -- they're hypocritical. I wouldn't mind going to a church if the people who were running it were a bit more credible." same day that Sister Agatha . . . was telling us how the body is the temple of God, she picked up this kid and smacked his head against the blackboard with such ferocity I was sure that his head would split open.
"That was my first glimpse of the hypocrisy of the church . . . they never approached a single real subject. My mother -- who is not radical by any means -- I can remember her when I was in high school writing a letter to the parish and wanting to know why they never had a sermon [on] or adressed the subject of the war [in Vietnam] . . . they never did. They never took a stank on the real moral issues."
Ron also was turned off by organized religion. He says, "When I was about 12, I told my parents one Sunday -- they came in to see if I was dressed for church -- I said I wasn't going. I said I didn't need that and [it] caused quite a stir for a while. [But] they weren't prepared to tie me up and throw me in the car and drive me there and drag me into church kicking and screaming.
"It was a topic of conversation for a while at the dinner table," he recalls. "They even went so far as to bring the preacher from our Presbyterian church -- actually a very nice guy and a very good preacher -- over and tried to convince me that that was the way to go. We argued for about an hour and he finally left having not convinced me."
Speaking for his wife and himself, Ron says, I consider ourselves religious people, I mean, in the sense of spiritual people, but that has very little to do with organized religion." Ron, however, believes that it's necessary to attend services "if that's important to you and you believe in it."
Doria has an older sister who is married to a college professor and a younger brother is an engineer. She remembers that she used to write term papers for her brother.
Her father, now 80 years old, emigrated from Genoa in 1920 because "it was in the middle of the big Fascist turmoil there and he felt that he had to get out."
Her mother is much younger than her father and American-born.
During the quiet evening at home the cats are well-behaved, though one is curious enough to jump up on the table and take a close look at the cheeses. The conversation drifts back to the celebrity status that has been thrust upon them. Ron, who has lived with it longer, thinks for a long moment and then says: "You allow yourself a few moments of being kind of secretly thrilled . . . in between the times when it's a hassle, it can be fun."